Friday, February 14, 2014

Ambassadors for Christ in the Origins Debate

Many great articles have been posted in the wake of the Bill Nye - Ken Ham debate on the viability of the creationist account of origins, and Karl W. Giberson's "How Creationism Hurts Christian Colleges and Their Students"  does a great job exploring one of the consequences of the polarized view of faith and science on Ken Ham's perspective. Giberson's central claim is not that science and evangelical colleges have grown apart on the issue of evolution, it's that evangelical colleges and churches have grown apart on the issue of evolution. Giberson sums up how he sees the experience of many evangelical students:
As students learn science, they discover that they have been misled by their religious upbringing. They discover that evolution is not tottering and about to collapse; the Big Bang is not an unfounded speculation; the earth is clearly very old; Noah’s flood can’t possibly have been worldwide; and the scientific community is not filled with secularist lemmings. The result is an intellectual crisis and many young Christians simply walk away from their faith with a feeling of betrayal.
Setting aside whether you agree with evolution or the old age of the earth, I think Giberson is speaking to a real sore spot in the evangelical experience. I spent eleven years at Florida State University, some as a student and some as a minister, and I talked to many students who felt what they were learning in the sciences were forcing them to either trust their professors or their previous pastors. For years they were warned by their pastors that universities teaching evolution were just propaganda centers harboring secularist, materialist, and nihilist worldviews. When many evangelical students take classes with professors who are good natured, rigorous in their search for truth, systematic in their methodologies, and strident in their scientific endeavor; students experience a genuine crisis of trust. Who should they trust and believe?

When students hold up their good natured professors who are systematically striving to find truth alongside their previous pastors whose guidance now seems overly defensive and rhetorical (or worse, flatly false), they often find themselves siding with their professors. Thus, they conclude they have to leave their faith behind. Let us be clear, it is not Christ that has been rejected in this situation, it is the way Christ has been represented by his ambassador's (in this case previous pastors) that has been rejected.

In all, I write this blog not to argue the evidence for evolution or young earth creationism, but for us to consider the effect a polarized view of 'six day creation' vs 'Atheistic evolution' has upon us. Even if we disagree with the alternatives (Old Earth Creationism, Theistic Evolution, Intelligent Design), as ambassadors for Christ, do we not have a responsibility to represent Christ in a way that should people reject him it's not because they reject our simplified and polarized image of him? Do we not have an obligation to project a wide view of following Christ that doesn't boil down to one specific interpretation of Genesis 1-11 and the scientific evidence? If the lamb who was slain is truly worthy of his reward, then we should be mindful of how we might be erecting unneeded barriers between the lamb and his reward.

What do you think?

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